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Shorthanded St. Elizabeth girls basketball holds on for win over Wilmington Charter: Photo gallery

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Maleeah Stevens drives toward the net for St. Elizabeth while Charter's Ava Lutrzykowski defends. Stevens finished with 12 points. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — The St. Elizabeth girls basketball team stormed out of the gate against Wilmington Charter on Jan. 31, putting up 23 points in the first quarter alone. But the Force, after falling behind by 21 in the third quarter, nearly erased the deficit before the Vikings prevailed, 65-59, at the St. E Center.

The Force closed to within 27-20 on a three-pointer by Catie Cole and a traditional three-point play by Danielle Kanse. But St. Elizabeth, playing without point guard Farrah White, who had left the game a few minutes earlier after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face, responded.

The finished the half on a 9-2 run. Ericka Huggins turned a steal into a transition 15-foot jumper. Ariel Garcia hit a long two, and Huggins fed Maleeah Stevens for a three. After the Vikings blocked a shot, Garcia took a long pass from Huggins and ended the half with a layup.

The Force used their height to help limit Huggins’ effectiveness inside, but the Vikings had others step up in the third as they stretched their lead. Garcia opened the second half with a baseline jumper, and, after a steal, Milan Paulin scored to increase the lead to 40-22. Another Stevens three ball increased that to 19, which is where it stood as the game headed to the fourth.

Huggins grabbed a steal and made a 12-foot jumper at the outset of the quarter, and the lead reached its apex, 52-31. Charter, however, started dialing long distance, turning this one into a contest.

Kanse hit a three, and after a rebound, Catie Cole connected from beyond the arc. A Kanse and another triple from the junior cut the Vikings’ lead to 52-41 with 5:17 to go. The Force kept the pressure on, but they still trailed by 13 after Huggins got free underneath for a layup.

With time running low, Charter went on an 8-0 run, exciting half the crowd while damaging the fingernails of the other half. Veronica Sanchez-Wright got it started, followed by short field goals down low by Sanchez-Wright, Tamiyah Burley and Sanchez-Wright again, cutting the St. E’s lead to 58-53.

Paulin made two free throws with 1:13 to go to end the streak, but with 35 ticks to go, Sanchez-Wright’s lay-in made it 61-57. The Force had a few chances to get closer in the closing seconds but were unable to capitalize on a few offensive rebounds. St. Elizabeth made three of four free throws at the end to hold on.

Unofficially, Huggins led three Vikings in double figures with 15. Garcia had 14, and Stevens scored 12. The Vikings (6-6) host Conrad on Thursday at 6 p.m.

For the Force, Kanse led the way with 24, with Sanchez-Wright contributing 14.. Charter fell to 9-4 and visit Archmere on Thursday at 6:15 p.m.

All photos by Mike Lang.